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The World of Airports: No. 1 The World of Whiskies
February 2, 2013 - Ray Tsuchiyama
One airport I would never forget was in Milwaukee – I used to travel extensively between Tokyo and Boston, and since there was no direct flight (Boston, like San Diego, is off the airlines’ Big City beaten track), I would always transfer somewhere in the northern Midwestern region, like Detroit (over a dozen times I never left the airport).
Milwaukee Airport had the usual restaurants and sundry shops, plus a used bookstore. I happily strolled between the walls of used books, and there was even a rolling ladder where I would climb up for an interesting title. I don’t know whether this shop is still in business, since bookstores have disappeared throughout the world, and I always remember the incongruity of a used bookstore in an airport.
The other airport I recall distinctly was Heathrow, a rather chaotic and dilapidated place north of London. While I was walking slowly pass the electronics shop with my black trusty computer bag, I spotted a large sign: “World of Whiskies”.
I then encountered an older gentleman with a tray with tiny plastic thimblefuls of Scottish whiskey – what a glorious sight! Yet what made this very English-looking salesman so extraordinary was that he spoke fluent Japanese and made his pitch quite eloquently. He would extol the virtues of several whiskies, emphasizing that “this bottle is NOT sold in Japan” and “this bottle is unique, and yes, NOT sold in Japan” – in pretty good Japanese, with correct intonations.
This salesman was quite famous, as a friend (a non-Japanese speaker) related how he engaged the individual in a long discussion about the merits of Talisker (with a familiar taste recalling Johnny Walker Black – and justly so, as Talisker is one of the key single malt whiskies in that latter iconic blend) and Bunnabhahain (with a lingering salty tang at the end). In fact, my friend was so engrossed in the conversation that he almost missed his flight.
I wonder if the Japanese-speaking Scotch whiskey salesman is still there at Heathrow . . .
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